Let the bird of loudest lay,
On the sole Arabian tree,
Herald sad and trumpet be,
To whose sound chaste wings obey.
But thou shrieking harbinger,
Foul precurrer of the fiend,
Augur of the fever’s end,
To this troop come thou not near!
–William Shakespeare, The Phoenix (1601)
It has come to my attention that some of the TRF Diary readers are not aware that clicking on the small thumbnail pictures will open up a separate popup window containing a larger version of the picture. Now you are.
Day 3, 11 October 2003
Ugh. I did not want to get up this morning. This particular “Byrd of loudest lay” (interpret that as you will, I guess) and “shrieking harbinger” was dead to the damned world at 7am, and the merest thought of putting on wool and standing around in the heat for 6 hours was just a click short of unpalatable. Nonetheless, professional foghorn player that I am, I leaned over the side of the bed until gravity (or, “grabbity,” if you read E. B. White) exerted its malign influence over my overabundant mass, causing me to topple to the beige carpet. Thus invigorated, I began my day.During the TRF, I become, for seven weeks, an inveterate weather-watcher, my drug of choice being The Weather Underground. I even hacked up the five bucks to avoid the ads for a year. This week, I’d been hitting the site at least once a day to see what I had in store for the weekend.
This is utterly brainless, completely obtuse, and optimistic to an extent equaled only by that exhibited by the Princes in the Tower in 1483, e.g., “Surely Uncle Third will let us out any day now; remember, he was really mad at Uncle Clarence, too, and locked him up in the Tower, but then he gave him that whole barrel of malmsey wine–Say, have you seen Uncle Clarence lately?”
Somehow, I always manage to forget that this is Texas, where weather forecasts, like time in a post-Newtonian universe, have no meaning. Trying to predict weather here is somewhat like southern Alabama (i.e., my putative “home”) but even worse. Best-guesses on weather here are accurate up to about 3 days into the future, and at that point, the meteorologists simply run out of track. Nonetheless, there I am, every bloody Monday morning, checking on the forecast for the weekend. The safe prediction, of course, is “hot and muggy in the morning, thunderstorms in the afternoon,” but for some perverse reason, forecasters always feel obligated to string me along with predictions of “highs in the lower 70s, lows in the mid-50s” until Friday morning, when it reverts to the former.
As it did this weekend.
It’s already 72 as I head north on Kuykendahl, then east on Kuykendahl-Hufsmith towards FM2978. This indicates a high of at least 85, more likely 90. Ugh, ugh, ugh.
I amuse myself en route by considering the singularly isolated countryside. Really, aside from Magnolia, TX, a bit of a wide spot in the road, there’s not really that much to see–except, of course, Henry’s Hideout: Museum of 1000 Horns. Don’t look for it on the national register of historic places. Henry’s, a familiar sight to Faire-goers, is a juke joint on FM1488, about a mile before the turn-off to the Festival grounds. In my non-Texan innocence, the first time I spied the place, I naively assumed that “horn” indicated musical instruments. Yes, I’m an idiot.
Not much new in Toontown this year. (see last year’s Diaries for an explanation of Toontown), although I do see some new, pearly-white tents. Knowing how much these abodes cost, and seeing so many of them back here, I can’t help but wonder where the money comes from. In a future installment, I hope to have gathered some information on exactly how the shopkeepers/full-time Rennies make ends meet.
The one thing that I was quite remiss in omitting from the Toontown depiction of yesteryear is mentioning the existence particularly heathenish dip on Rue Toontown. It looks innocuous as you drive towards it, but beware! The first time I hit this motherfucker I not only nearly ripped the transmission and driveshaft from underneath my Grand Cherokee, but also abraded about a quarter-inch of flesh off my capacious ass. Much faster than 10MPH over this sinkhole and I’m scrod–if you have a smaller vehicle, you might consider carrying it over on your back.
After warming up and getting ready for the first set, I note that Karen, last week’s trombonist, is not here today. For this weekend, we have the valued services of Paul. I feel for him today–during my first year playing the TRF, I spent the entire seven-week series wearing borrowed clothes, as he is today. Eric and I both purchased hats by the end of the second week. As the photo of Paul shows so exceptionally well, the “stock” hats are to some extent equitable with wearing a velvet bladder cloaca on one’s head.
Eric is already battling the “thou shalt not spend all thine TRF earnings on Renaissance garb” demon. As you may remember from last year’s screed, he purchased a way-cool doublet. (Being thin, he can do this) Last weekend, during a break time gambol, he discovered the matching breeches, paned, with the same embroidery work. He has them on layaway.
Did such a thing exist during the Tudor period? I think not. However, with his Toledo-copy rapier, cool-dude doublet and paned breeches, he’ll cut quite a swath–perhaps managing to achieve an even more haughty, Blackadder-like mien as he swoops in from the battlements.
I’m so tired ‘twixt the 10am and 12 noon sets that I simply perch on the back of the Cherokee and read. Attendance today seems to be pretty fair, but an avowed people-hater such as myself can only take so many bodies crammed into the same area at once for so long. Being personable and “entertaining” on the gazebo stage really takes a lot out of me. It’s difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t have this particular affliction how damnably trying it is to smile for a solid hour. My ideal life would involve a large, well-stocked monastery library with a door with the lock on the inside, within which I would while away my days reading in the absolute, blissful, complete quiet, coming outside to “the real world” only when I deemed it necessary. A few conversations, a good meal, and perhaps some swill
would be my only requirements for a happy life. Of course, the logical question to follow this mini-diatribe is “Why did you originally choose music as a profession?” Ahh, because my initial career choice was to be a composer, locked away with (then) a grand piano, good pencils and pens, and an endless supply of staff paper, or (now), a fast computer, a Korg keyboard, Finale, and a decent amplifier. Incidentally, I read some few years ago that these same creative/isolationist tendencies are exhibited to a remarkable degree by schizophrenics. Comes as no surprise to me.
The Xenas are out in force today. I (as well and Eric and Paul) have noted a new trend this year vis a vis the Xena Brigades. Last year, the fashion statement was, from the skin out, flimsy brassiere and thong, chainmail brassiere, chainmail “skirt.” This year, we’ve seen a number of ladies–ranging from late teens to (ack, phttbtt) mid-60s wearing this particular “costume” sans the flimsy brassiere. I’ve seen two individuals wearing what appeared to be colored plastic thongs as opposed to fabric as well. At the very least, this is disturbing on a primal, molecular level. At worst, it’s repellent. I cannot help but wonder: Yes, I’m a guy, and I never would dream of wearing stuff like that, but to you ladies out there–isn’t that uncomfortable? How can you wear stuff like that in the 90 degree heat and not collapse? Aren’t you afraid of ripping, sanding, or grinding your nipples off? I have so much to learn about women.
By 1:15pm, the heat and dazzling sunlight (like most cave-dwelling creatures, the bright light hurts my eyes) have given me a blinding headache. I feel like my head caught fire and I attempted to extinguish the flames with an ice pick. So I pay a visit to the newly-enlarged coffee shop and get a double espresso–that helps sometimes. No dice. The fact that the new shop looks suspiciously like some kind of retro-Starbucks is a bit disconcerting, but hey, gotta bring in the pounds/shilling/pence from somewhere, right? At least by our 1:30 set, I can see out of both eyes, albeit fuzzily.
The trumpet section is late for this set’s start, so Eric, Paul, and I whip out a couple of trios I arranged this week as filler material–a Praetorius courante (number CLXXXIII if you’re following on your scorecards at home) and a pavane by that distant cousin of William of Ockham, Anne of Onymous. Thankfully, they go off passably and are now in the emergency rotation.
Despite good crowds today, our tip take sucks. Apparently, while the Newmarket Gazebo is good for visibility, most people just walk on by going to Dranch-uh-Wanch or Ded Bob.
Day 4, 12 October 2003
Eric says his swashbuckler face is arrogant. What do you think?
I make a desperate attempt to leave early enough this morning to make it to Al’s loud band, but at the last minute am waylaid, and arrive only in time to listen to Cantiga. Al’s gonna kick my white ass.
During our first set, we are gifted by a visit from the all-treble singing group Queen Anne’s Lace. We’re just getting warmed up, about 15 minutes into the set, when they arrive to sing Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and then *gasp* Hallelujah from Messiah with us. (That’s #44 in the book, if you have your libretto handy. Haendelly. Whatever.) The performances go off amazingly well–however, after blaring out The Wicked Chorus before 11am, my face is as stiff as a board. I suspect that it shall remain so for the remainder of the day. (in fact, it does).
This year’s TRF experience is turning out to be much more hectic that last–this is due primarily to the fact that last year, I had a job–ONE job–and the Faire was a release, a recreation from the toils and cares of the 9 to 5 grind. This year, the Faire is actually part of the main revenue–along with a zillion private lessons, ad-hoc consulting, and a few other things. It’s enough to make you forget who or where you are. To assist, I made a list of things you can do during the week to keep that TRF ambience somewhat more constant throughout the week:
- Have a household member rev up a leafblower outside your bedroom window just before dawn, so you won’t miss the privy-suckers.
- Invite about 2,000 friends over, then try to walk from one end of your house to the other.
- Crank your heater up to 100 and stand in front of it wearing a sleeping bag for a skirt and a wool blanket for a shirt. Add a hat. Try to cool yourself by drinking warm, rust-flavored water.
- Be drunk by 11am. Sleep it off mid-day and start all over again at 4pm.
- Each afternoon, pile fine silt in front of a portable fan on a card table. Stand in front of the fan so the silt blows into your eyes. Every time it does, curse.
- Put pebbles all over the floors of your house. Wear thin-soled slippers as “shoes.” Walk on the rocks for 8 hours straight.
- Invite a few friends over for dinner; charge your family $3 for iced tea and $5 for a baked potato; charge your guests $5 for the tea and $9 for the potato.
- Sprinkle your toilet seat and bathroom floors with water and wet wadded tissue. Add a pile of fake vomit. Or real vomit. Your choice.
- When you undress at night, wad up your clothes and stash them outside. Sprinkle beer and dirt on them.
I find this keeps me on an even keel.
I have been to the Texas Renaissance Festival for three years running now. I see these guys every year. WHAT THE FUCK ARE THEY???
Having not been able to go listen to Istanpitta much this weekend, I finally wander down toward their gazebo later in the day, passing the mud faeries en route. If the teenage mutant ninja sculptors (Michaelangelo, Raphael, Donatello, Leonardo) had worked in mud rather than marble or bronze, the entire course of western history could have been different. Think about it. No, wait–don’t. I’m still an idiot.
As mentioned last week, the “line up” of Istanpitta has changed for this year. The newest face is Stephanie, the new viellist. I discovered this weekend that she is a newcomer to the vielle (for those of you that don’t know, the vielle can be quickly [and inaccurately] described as a 5-string violin with odd scordatura and a bow that’s bent backwards), having only been tucking a vielle under her chin for about three months. Nonetheless, she sounds wonderful, and her energetic presence on the stage is invigorating, both to the audience and the performers. Sahira, tribal dancer cum flutist cum mezzo-soprano cum engineer I mentioned last week, and Michael and Al, percussionist and lutenist respectively, are consummate professionals. As a group, they are immeasurably compelling. On the flip side, seeing that much variegated talent on one stage usually has me hunting for a 5-pound hammer to beat my horn into a plowshare by the end of the day.
In addition to getting to hear the Notorious D (Dancing Pork Chop) again, I was pleasantly surprised by getting to hear Al squeeze his dudelsack. Ever notice how someone playing a set of pipes appears to have been attacked by a strange and vicious small animal? My God, won’t someone help that man?
The audience was appropriately attentive. Or rendered motionless, a la an Indian snake charmer’s victim. (Author’s note: I am particularly amused by the lady in the back row in the photo, apparently covering her face as the pipes sound out over the crowd)
After trading vacuous pleasantries with the players, I hobbled back to the Cherokee for the 45 minute drive home. On the way out, I noted that the dragon had been roaming; I saw the tracks–but no fewmets. Farther along down the road, I actually espied the dragon his own self.
Good attendance has one drawback–godawful traffic. As fate would have it, I found myself stalled in a jam in front of the sign to the right. I do hope this was a coincidence and not a portent of things to come next week.
I leave you today with perhaps the best image I’ve ever taken at the festival; this shot of Istanpitta and their devoted princess says it all.